Buenos Aires Inspirations: Studying Tango, Intensively.
Today is day 4 of my Buenos Aires trip. I am tired. Exhausted, to be honest. But I'm bursting with emotions, experiences and study material. Beyond it all, I am really inspired, and that's what I really came here for. But one thing at a time.
In this post I will write about my learning experiences, and milongas and lessons to take from local social dancing will be in the next post.
On day 1, I was actively planning to take it easy and do nothing. No milongas, no classes. RIGHT.
From the second my phone was on after I landed, I got a message from a lovely dancer I didn't know personally before, but who a few people told me about. He invited me to join him in a private class, practice and milonga afterwards. Of course I couldn't say no. It turned out to be a really wonderful experience, dancing for the very first time together in front of a teacher who judged, of course. We practiced and headed to milonga afterwards, one of those apparently “tough” milongas where the highest level young dancers gather and the objective is to show off. I was really tired but I dance quite a lot anyway, and only left when I realized I was mostly spacing out when I wasn't on the dance floor. All in all, it was nice to see that it doesn't have to be too difficult to “penetrate” the upper circles here although of course some young Argentinian professionals didn't mix much with any foreigners or even older locals.
I had my first glimpses of the level of performing, social dancing and the kind of fun approach to tango that local people have here. Tango is fun. Tango is social. And tango here has a lot of amazing, amazing dancers. Not all my tandas were fantastic, I did actually have one that was a mistake. But one in a dozen is not too bad.
And mainly, I got my first couple of amazing embraces, and danced with a guy who had it all – the embrace, the musicality, the energy and the vocabulary. He left BsAs the next day but we will see each other again in the future, I'm sure.
Day 2 I spent studying and later indulged in an overload of social dancing experience.
I had two private classes, one with Pablo Rodriguez and one with Alejandra Gutty.
Interestingly, I wasn't planning on studying with Pablo. To me, he never seemed like the dancer who'd be fitting to my style or approach, but knowing how many people enjoyed his classes and admiring his flow, I came exactly for that reason: to understand what he's all about and to work on my flow. And I have to say, I loved the class. He gave me a lot, because I seemed to have been absorbing it well. It was like a firework of information, Boom-boom-bam! He is very methodical and analytical in the mechanics of body movement, which I like very much, it's also the way I work for myself. I came out understanding what his flow is about, and feeling sure I can learn to apply it to my dance. And then I also decided to arrange a couple more lessons with him.
Generally I don't believe in just one lesson. In order to actually deeply understand something, anything, you've got to take it, work on it, practice it, and then come back for corrections and for more. So I think a minimum of 3-4 lessons with almost any teacher is a must, with some time in between for incorporating the information.
Alejandra Gutty was not a dancer I was very familiar with prior to coming here. I have seen a few videos (very impressive!) and a few people I trust recommended her, but I didn't know her myself. It was a lottery, when two weeks ago I wrote her to arrange a series of 4 classes. I had specific objective for her classes: I wanted to work on technique with emphasis on aesthetics of the dance.
In general, I almost always come to a teacher with a specific request. Only one or two teachers, those who I think of as my “coaches”, I come and ask to just “check” my dance. It's necessary to have someone like that, to come and “inspect” your progress at regular intervals. With all other teachers, I personally highly recommend knowing what you want from them. That means, doing your homework. You need to think about what you want, what you need as that is the best way for you to move forward in your improvement. Pro tip! :)
After my first lesson with Alejandra, I started questioning whether I could actually apply it to my dance. It seemed so different, so unusual to me. More than that. It seemed to be partially contradicting with what Pablo said just a couple of hours before that. And yet, I know that while some things can seem contradictory, most of the time they are the same thing, from different perspectives.
So I worked on projection, standing leg engagement and hip position with Alejandra. Deep stuff! Difficult stuff, considering it was for more powerful aesthetics, it needed to be stronger that it'd be for just pleasant social dancing. I came out feeling a bit stiff but determined to make it work, even if to potentially discard it later.
My motto is: “Make it work even if you don't like it. Get good at it and then you can decide whether you like it or not. But make it work”
later that day, there were two milongas that I went to, but more about social dancing in a separate post.
Day 3 I practiced and danced, a lot. Total of 10 hours in shoes, tangoing.
Actually I had a class with Corina Herrera scheduled that day but she had to cancel. Not a problem, I thought, I need to practice all the information from day before anyway. So I met with two friends, one after another, and practiced. Both of them I met here for the first time, which tells you how easy it is to find a practice partner here, one just has to want it. There are many people living in Buenos Aires for months or even years at a time, working on their tango.
There are many ways of practicing, and generally anything that helps with body awareness, sensitivity and balance is a huge plus for your tango. I believe if you practice with a partner, it is important to talk about things, analyse what works and what doesn't work well, video yourself, work on things slowly and give (and take!) feedback. Just dancing can also be good practice but it's much less effective and is more directed at getting more accustomed to each other. So if you want to form a couple then just dancing is also necessary, but I firmly believe that analytical approach to practicing is the most effective. So yes, please do talk, correct, question (yourself in the first place) if you want to get better!
At night I went to La Viruta, where Horacio Godoy DJed, played chess, made coffee and served drinks, danced and sang. Yep, some unexpected qualities this man has! More later.
Day 4, today, I was tired. I was up at 11, after just 3 hours of sleep. Weather is terrible here today, it was as if skies opened and poured all their water on us at once, for the whole day. So I was late for my long-awaited private class with Moira Castellano. For those who don't know, she is my favourite dancer. To me, she has all the qualities of an amazing follower that I admire: elegance, power, femininity, strong personality, and density and lightness at the same time. For years I've been wanting to study with her, so I booked a series of 5 classes with her, only to miss the first one. Oh well. Next one will be next week.
But this gave me a chance to finally sit down in a cafe, relax, chat (online) to people I met here and so many things, and then head to practice. We practiced with my local regular partner here for a few hours, filming ourselves and questioning what needs to change. I love practicing with him. We give each other a lot of new ideas and feedback, we are both tall and seem to be on the same page in terms of style, dancing approach and connection. All very important qualities in practice partners, for sure!
And then, I had my second class with Alejandra Gutty. Today, her class was much tougher. I came out beyond tired, with my whole body aching and knowing that all my muscles will probably hurt tomorrow. She made me work! And most interestingly, we didn't dance. At all. It was all about body awareness, tone and posture, and damn, I'm telling you, this stuff is hard! But, it's inspiring! I could see and feel changes happening in my body, and I still feel the effect of her class right now, as I'm sitting cross-legged on my bed, typing these words.
Fantastically, my partner still had energy to do one more hour of practicing after my class which was golden: I got to put into dance what I was learning with Alejandra statically. His feedback was that my shoulders were stiffer (I still don't know how to correctly apply her shoulder position technique and not mess up my softness. It's a fine balance) but balance improved, and when we filmed, I could see a huge difference!
Indeed, when you set yourself a clear goal (e.g. improving aesthetics of movement with Alejandra) and consciously work hard on it, you can achieve some results very quickly. It's a process that will never end, and might take years to really implement, but if you're determined, you will get better. Nothing is impossible, but it takes work.
Luckily, I'm ready to work!
So tomorrow, more work.
My second class with Pablo Rodriguez, this time together with my partner. Beside this, I'm really looking forward to the weekend, and my 12-hour body awareness and female technique seminar with Corina De La Rosa. Many Argentine teachers told me over these days that I have to study with her, she's the source, so I booked it. Oh what a blessing it is, to have all these teachers, all different styles, to teach and guide you. This is a truly amazing thing about being here.
Of course, beside milongas. Social dancing is something special, and it has many lessons to teach us. I definitely learned so much, perhaps even more, from going to milongas here. But more about it in my next post.
Long live the tango and its teachers!